Record-high labor shortage in the Netherlands: more vacancies than people looking for a job

With a 3.5% unemployment rate, the Netherlands experience a record-high labor shortage with more open positions than people without a job.

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The number of vacancies in the horeca – hotel, restaurant, cafe – industry grew the fastest and doubled compared to the end of 2021 in the Netherlands | Illustration, © Louis Hansel

Statistics Netherlands (CBS) published the latest quarterly figures for the Dutch job market which shows another record-high labor shortage in the country.

There are now 133 vacancies per 100 unemployed people in the first quarter of 2022 in the Netherlands, the seventh consecutive quarter of increase. During the fourth quarter of 2021, this ratio was only 106 per 100 jobless persons, and yet, this was the first time there were more vacancies than people without a job since at least 2008.

This labor shortage is the result of both a growth in job opportunities, +59,000 open positions in a quarter, and a decline in unemployment (-32,000 jobless people; -9%).

There were 451,000 vacancies in Q1 2022. Trade and retail, corporate services and healthcare sectors account for half of the unfilled opportunities. The number of vacancies in the Horeca – hotel, restaurant, cafe – industry, the one in which it grew the fastest, doubled compared to the previous quarter while the Netherlands closed restaurants and bars in December during a lockdown.

There are now 8,826,000 employees in the country, which added 102,000 jobs in a quarter (+1.2%). Self-employed account for 2,418,000 people (+1.1%), more than one in five of the Dutch workforce. Both categories reach an all-time high.

The labor shortage can even sometimes cause disruptions in public transport and traffic. The Ketheltunnel, a tunnel near Rotterdam was briefly closed recently because two staff members were sick and no one was able to replace them on the spot.

On the other hand, 338,000 people look for a job, only 3.5% of the labor force, which is a record low since 2003 and the publication of quarterly employment statistics. Among them, 83,000 people have been looking for a job for more than a year – 25% of the unemployed.

For the minister of Social Affairs Karien van Gennip, companies now need “to be attractive to job seekers when it comes to salaries, work culture, training, rosters and recruitment methods,” in light of the data. The minister also notes there is room for people to work more hours as many employees in the Netherlands are on part-time work schedules.

Out of the 11.2 million people with a job in the Netherlands, 2.7 million (24%) were under flexible work contracts with no set working hours. They may have a minimum and maximum range of hours, or not even any minimum hours and need to show up when the employer calls. Jobs with flexible hours are lower than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, there are still 491,000 underutilized part-time workers, according to Statistics Netherlands.

But the pool of potential labor force also decreased. It consists of, on top of unemployed persons, engaged people who look for another job, part-time workers trying to get more hours or recently unemployed who don’t look for a job. This untapped labor potential was 1.1 million people, a 6% decline (-75,000) to the previous quarter.

The labor shortage in the Netherlands is expected to last.

Read more about the Netherlands

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